Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hour of the Wolf


Dir: The Great One (Persona; Scenes From a Marriage; The Virgin Spring; Cries and Whispers; Fanny and Alexander; Wild Strawberries)

Since Ron seems to hate Ingmar Bergman, I feel it is up to me to stand up for the greatest director of movies ever. After every film of his that I see, my belief in that sentiment continues to grow.

This is Bergman's lone horror movie, a fantastical exploration of Max von Sydow's decent into madness. Liv Ullmann, oh sweet Liv, is von Sydow's wife who is pulled down with him. The film explores the ways that our inner demons can take over our lives and how the lines between reality and nightmare can become blurred in the diseased mind. It can be classified a horror movie (for certainly Bergman has played with the reality of mental symbols before) by its constant references to classics of that genre, especially a steady stream of vampire allusions. Most of his films disturb, but this is designed especially to terrify. As you might expect from this material, Bergman is rather inscrutible, forcing the audience to reckon with what is real and false along with the main characters.

Each of the mental demons that plague von Sydow are personified and are archetypal in the emotion that they represent (jealousy, lust, fear, etc.). The complicated script has these people float in and out of corporeal reality; sometimes we know they are figments, sometimes both partners in the marriage experience the same delusion. von Sydow keeps a diary that is ambiguous as well. Trying to get a sense of where the film comes down on these "monsters" is half of the terror; there is a lot of cognitive dissonance between the realism and the magical nature of the story, just as our own understanding that vampires are figments does not stop them from physically disturbing us.

Like Persona before it, Bergman is also very self reflexive about the movie making process here. The allusions to Bela Lugosi for example are plain as day (physical appearance, camera angle, acting), reminding the audience that this is a film like many they have seen before. The opening credits are shown over a black screen, but in the background are sounds of the crew building sets and Bergman's voice giving direction. The themes of artificiality and reality are at play in many ways, all fascinating.

This is a hard movie to write about. Did I say it was brilliant? It was. The acting is impeccable, the imagery is genuinely frightening and memorable, and the film is plenty smart to have meaningful messages about psychology and art.

Yet another brilliant, wonderful, jaw dropping film from Bergman. Maybe one day Ron will drop the hate and learn to appreciate good films.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 6/07/2006 09:53:00 PM that...

I know, my irrational prejudices are sooo debilitating...know what I mean, Marcus.

I assume you are working your way through the lone non-Criterion box set.  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 6/08/2006 04:41:00 AM that...

Ron, how could you hate such a great director?  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 6/08/2006 10:22:00 AM that...

Years of practice.